One thing I like about the Portland area is that there’s usually something interesting happening on any given day or night. Last weekend I attended a book promotion at Longfellow Books by author Steve Almond who published “Against Football.” I’m not against it. I love football and plan my weekends around Patriots’ games, but I wanted to hear the writer make his case.
When I go to these things, I’m closeted. Nobody knows me down there and I don’t ask questions which may hint that my thinking is diametrically opposed to almost everything being said. Sometimes I feel like an anthropologist observing another species of hominid in its natural habitat, the very progressive City of Portland, Maine.
He claimed he was a fan (which I doubted) and had a hard time weaning himself, but watching football had become a moral quandary. He said it was the concussion thing mostly — that football players had shorter lifespans and were more likely to suffer dementia. He claimed players, mostly black, were exploited by billionaire owners. Watching games would only funnel more money into their pockets. Players were highly paid, but their careers were short.
He said he couldn’t watch men from poor backgrounds sacrifice their bodies for his enjoyment. He said football was “militaristic,” after which I expected he’d say they were dressed in uniforms and took strategic orders from their superiors to knock down men in opposing uniforms - or something like that - but he didn’t. He said football was militaristic because it was like watching soldiers suffering in battle while he was safe and warm in his house, which made him feel guilty. That confused me. Did he feel guilty because he could be safe and warm in his house only because soldiers were willing to suffer in battle? He didn’t elaborate but I was left with the feeling that he just disapproved of the military in general.
He disliked football’s “medieval gender roles” too, and worried his daughters would see muscular men and cheerleaders as sex-role models. He said football was “heteronormative” as if that were something to disdain. It’s a made-up word to slander those of us who think heterosexuality is normal. It’s repeated often on college campuses where people major in “Queer Studies”; “Gender Studies”; “Women’s Studies”; “Whiteness Studies” and such things.
He insisted Richie Incognito bullied fellow Miami Dolphin offensive lineman Jonathan Martin because he was repressing his latent homoerotic attraction to Martin. That analysis seemed so off the mark to me that I looked it up when I got home. Looks like he got it from Keith Olbermann, a hard-left sportscaster who suggested it on ESPN.
He believes the NFL is “completely morally corrupt,” is “racially perverse” and “incredibly classist,” whatever that means. He said, “Football has militarized us” but I didn’t hear a coherent explanation for what he meant by that either. He sees football as an “engine of nihilistic greed” and he’d like “public ownership of teams.” Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Government running the NFL? Look what it’s doing to health care. Government-run schools banned dodge ball in gym class and tag at recess. Just think what it would do to football.
NFL team owners tend to be politically conservative, with most donating to Republicans, but not all. Robert Kraft, for example, donates to Obama. Many players and coaches are conservative Christians as well. None of this was mentioned by Almond in his presentation, but I have to think they were factors in his contempt for the game. Perhaps he goes into these aspects of football in his book, but I won’t be reading it. He said enough in Portland to convince me that would be a waste of my time.